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View Diary: I Want an App to Fsck* Telemarketers (28 comments)

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    cassandracarolina, Joe Bob, stevemb

    I'm at work so I'm going to actually answer as though I were doing my job.

    1. I don't see any issues regarding wiretap laws; what you're doing is no different, in principle, than an intelligent voicemail device.

    2. The issue here is deciding that something is a telemarketer call.

    What all those unwanted calls have in common is that they are not done on behalf of commercial entities.  Why?  The do-not-call enabling legislation explicitly exempts non-profits and political organizations, as well as pollsters.

    So after wringing their hands over lost opportunities for tele-selling swampland in Florida and fifth-rate vinyl siding, the telemarketing industry set to exploit this loophole.  Thus, the technology and process are lifted straight out of the existing playbook.  Basically, telemarketing companies either contract with existing groups to use their name in return for a percentage of the money they make, or in some cases cook up their own charities which minimally meet the IRS and state anti-fraud laws (e.g., some of the money gets donated), but which have much higher margins for the telemarketing group.

    This is a long-winded answer, but what it comes down to is that those calls are made from boiler rooms using autodialers.  (Some of the technology is not dissimilar to what is used in a call center.)  The autodialer goes trolling for valid numbers -- it also knows what exchange codes belong to landlines, what belongs to mobiles, and can easily figure out what's happening if it gets a data or fax line before a human is dispatched for the call.

    When you answer, you'll notice a fairly long delay as the request is queued to a telemarketer and connected.  There are a lot of telemarketers in the boiler room and the system has a good idea who is freeing up.  Part of the call handoff is pulling up the appropriate script (e.g., one boiler room can do more than one client at once).

    This delay is your ace in the hole because it lets you distinguish between a real call and a telemarketer (it won't work for robocalls which don't need to dispatch a human operator).

    3. I would prefer for this to run on a more powerful freestanding device.  However, at least on Android, you can grant an application permission to interact with the phone.  It is not the default for obvious reasons, and you'd need to manually set it up that way.  (Furthermore, you can tell your Android phone to accept apps from other than Google Play, including your own Android SDK, which is a standard Eclipse framework that you download from Google.  I'm not sure how you develop for iOS or what the rules are for app interaction with the phone.)

    3a.  The app would need to be able to do two things.

    (a) Detect a delay, e.g. if it's more than a second or two seconds or whatever before speech is recognized, don't pass the call to you.  A first version might just block the calls based on this.

    3b. Mess with the mind of the caller.  This does not require elaborate speech recognition, just enough to make something that is a credible imitation of a garrolous pinhead.  (Distinguishing between caller types is a lot harder.  You need to recognize how the speech software on the phone parsed the speech and then figure out what kind of caller you've got.  That's too bad, I like the idea of doing the anarcho-syndicalist commune routine to political callers.)  To respond intelligently, you need a lot more than something like Eliza.

    I'd just randomly pick a script, perhaps from several (Cheeseburger-Cheeseburger skit from 1970s SNL, General purpose anarcho-syndicalist from Monty Python, Jeff Foxworthy skit, or just outright phone sex porn, and of course many others.)  Most of the telemarketers tend to read from scripts and not deviate from them.

    •  WordSaladShooter ver1.0 (1+ / 0-)
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      liberaldregs
      Mess with the mind of the caller.  This does not require elaborate speech recognition, just enough to make something that is a credible imitation of a garrolous pinhead.
      So, feed a bunch of Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and Rick Perry speeches into a basic ELIZA-type program, then?

      On the Internet, nobody knows if you're a dog... but everybody knows if you're a jackass.

      by stevemb on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 12:20:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  You forgot that in order to access the audio (0+ / 0-)

      from voice calls requires installing a custom kernel with support for call recording which means unlocking the bootloader (S-OFF) which is often a pain in the butt.

      You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

      by Throw The Bums Out on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 03:23:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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